Defence News

‘Make in India’ for weapons, equipment hits hurdle, govt wants changes to avoid political controversy

The Strategic Partnership (SP) model, the Narendra Modi government’s silver bullet for making India a leading producer of defence equipment and platforms, has hit a hurdle and is now being revisited.

Indias plans to make complicated weapons platforms such as fighter jets or submarines havent yet taken-off. And the policy – although announced isnt yet functional.

Admitting glitches, Secretary (Defence Production) Ajay Kumar said that some issues have come up. We are sorting them out.

India is the biggest importer of weapons and equipment platforms. The SP model incorporated into the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) last year aimed to make India a defence manufacturing hub and even export weapons.

Under the SP model, global defence manufacturing giants for instance Boing, Lockheed etc – were to set-up manufacturing facilities in India in collaboration with a private Indian entity.

The Indian partner would get access to critical technology, and in return, the joint-venture would be nominated as a long-term strategic partner from whom India would source weapons and platforms for decades.

South Block had decided to build fighter jets, helicopters, submarines and tanks (all of which the forces need urgently) through the SP model.

Now, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is apprehensive that SP model in its current form could lead to a political controversy, and wants to change it completely.

The original SP model had excluded Defence Public Sector Units (DPSU) like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or Bharat Electronics Limited.

Top MoD sources told India Today that excluding DPSU is discriminatory and could even lead to allegations of corruption.

The Modi government had said DPSUs were excluded to encourage the private sector and help develop a defence manufacturing ecosystem.

Earlier, the Congress had questioned excluding HAL from the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters from France. The MoD believes that keeping DPSUs could expose the government to more political attacks and allegations

In complete reversal from its previous stand, the MoD will now allow Defence Public Sector Units. We remain committed to a level playing we will include the DPSU if they have their wherewithal, Additional Secretary Defence Production Subhash Chandra said.

More importantly, the MoD also feels that designating a joint-venture as a long-term strategic partner (from whom the country would source weapons for decades) would not stand the scrutiny of law.

Designating someone as the supplier for weapon systems or platforms for years could give rise to allegations of favoritism, which is avoidable, a senior officer told India Today.

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